on winter solstice

b&woak4First one toe, then another.

The day begins.

 

A sun to worship, the ancients rejoice.

I hear it, subtle, but there.

A louder song, a promise born, faintly,

in the wind.

 

And why?

 

First one breath, then another.

Not the first day of,

but midway through.

Midway to

the fresh and green and day you’ve been waiting for.

 

Sometimes me, sometimes you.

Spiralling in can take an eternity, and in the dark, what to hold onto,

this?

 

Yes.

This–

if we are just a microcosm of this macro cosmos,

then know,

and know well,

that there will always be light–always–

(and dark)

again.

 

And again.

And again.

And again.

all that remains

winter, poetry, writing, natureIt is cold tonight, stepping out onto the porch to return the pile of outer layers we gathered up throughout the day.  Damp jackets.  Grandma’s woolly crocheted hats.  Knitted gloves too small already, my own handmade holiday gift last year to those little fingers, grown.

I don’t mean to, but I shiver.  Days when I’ve been inside so much, only out to feed and water the animals and gather wood, days that I don’t really mind all that much because they are filled with the kind of still, quiet warming that I need in winter–just one of these days and the chill that wants to catch my skin and stay, in just seconds, shows me just how easy it is to soften.

And my mind wanders for a minute in the dark, the light burnt out a while back, in high summer when no light was needed, and still hoping to be replaced, to see a check next to its name on the long, winter to do list. I realize I don’t know.  I’m not sure how soft to be.

But soft or not, I return into the arms of the fire full house, letting the wind and cold beat the last bit of life out of things as we wash the evening dishes, finish a thousand drawings, and put to bed so many tiny, household lives we’ve lived, today, this one winter’s day.

This Sunday, this Monday, they are the first relaxing days I have had in a long while.  Since September.  And these two, just the start.  So many remain, days such as this.

This year, like every year, we find that we are not great at growing onions on this farm.  Rather, it is like this–we don’t really know if we are great at it or not because limited space and time and the lure of the green onion to eat and sell all summer long always wins over the much more sensible idea that we should just let those onions grow.  So that they might now remain, for winter.  Every week, at market, I buy onions from much more sensible farmers, with much more land and a whole winters worth of alliums to caramelize in my skillet.

And for their sense, I am thankful.

But even though our larder doesn’t house them, our home does.  Us, the onions, brought inside.  Chill morning by brisk eve, winter is the fine task of pulling back the layers to reveal what grew in us this year.  What is new there, what gone?  Opposite the bundling we take on to go out the door, inside, we peel away all but the naked remains, the new seed of us.  What will that look like?  What will we have to offer the coming, new year?

The rest is shed and buried back in the ground, the old skins, like the plants we once were out under the sun.  And my life, shaped and severed each season by these elements–sun, fire, earth, rain–at least I know how to grow it well, I think to myself.  The longer I live here, the more well shaped I become.  This land, these seasons, our little harvest, our life, it grows fuller with each and every winter that comes.  And so, I let go, the wandering mind, and slip under the heavy pile of covers for the night.  Faith can be as simple as this.

A pattern found worth trusting.

the dead like orange

calendula, el dia de los muertos, the veil is thin, november, fall, winter, remembering

This time of year is strange, the beginning of a long exhale.  Much needed, but still so different from the short pants of summer’s sprint/marathon.  When you’ve been busy, slowing down feels clumsy, and at the top of such breaths, the one you were at first grasping to take and now fumbling into, you don’t always remember how it goes.  You don’t fully let go into it until all the leaves have fallen and some of the litter on the ground begins to turn back into the very stuff it first came from.  It is as slow a process as the season that beckons it.

But in the midst of this awkward stumble, the start of the celebrating of the dark cycle of the year starts up and helps things along.  Right away, with the perfectly wild, silly, and fun night that is Halloween, there is some loosening.  For me, the line up of celebrations from now through epiphany– celebrations rooted in ancient cultures, deepened and strengthened liturgically through time–even though they are now nearly devoid of meaning, these celebrations, for me, are placed in our calender for a reason, and I always try to really let the joy, warmth, and light they were meant to bring our homes and our hearts flood the waters just as the waters outdoors do the same.   On All Hallows’ Eve, I find that sweetness is a genuine impulse, that our community takes kindly to opening its doors to strangers, that we smile and laugh and share with each other freely under the guise of this, in my book, hallowed evening.  I take it, gobble it up, that shared frivolity, the calling of the night to revel, together.  The candy, and candy companies, kind of make me want to chuck the baby out with the bathwater, but I don’t.  I find a way to celebrate despite our modern day conundrum.

And I like to keep the momentum going over the next few days for el dia de los muertos.  Calling together my mother and father, whose deaths were a hard four days apart and left me breathless in grief only to really teach me how to hold on to this life more properly, we share memories of them and my husband’s family, people my children have never really known, but whom he and I have, and whom we love dearly.  It is a wonderful tradition.

And although I don’t know whether the veils really are thin between the worlds of the departed and this fully beating one at this time of year, I do know that the world around us is dying unto itself like it does every autumn and winter, and that it as natural a time as any to really give this beautiful part of the life cycle some of our loving attention.  If we look around us to a world gone quieter knowing that it is just one part of a circular pattern, we can celebrate how proper and right the design is.  We long for winter when it comes.  It was first celebrating this holiday the November after my folks passed away that brought a blanket of peace to my heavy heart.   It is a celebration that removes the fear we have of death, such a good thing to learn early on.  I don’t want to be afraid to die, and I really don’t want my children to be afraid of it either, of losing their loved ones or themselves.  It seems such a pity.  My mother was so afraid to go, it broke my heart.  And so, we talk about it lightly and matter of factly and sweetly, because it is just as true and good as the birth of a new soul.  And it is sweet, the remembering, even if it is bitter-sweet.

So even though we don’t really expect our dead to join us in the evening, and we don’t really put out treats to literally feed their wandering souls, we do keep at this to feed our own.

But this year was different.  I had my moments.  Washing vegetables outside, after dark, alone in the wash station, I couldn’t quit the impulse to look behind me.  I kept thinking about my father, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was standing there, in the shadows.  Peeking back, over my shoulder, shuddering, repeat.  And then, I would laugh at myself, because I have just started re-watching Lost with my oldest son and I kept thinking that all of that first season suspense was really going to my head.

But still.

On the night my father passed away, as I laid down in the dark to sleep, I prayed so hard that I would not be visited by him in any way, shape, or form.  I don’t know why I felt the need, I just did.  And I had the same feeling those few nights when I had that sensation to look over my shoulder.  No, no, no.  I don’t want a visit.

Some ghosts are better left buried.

And yet, I can’t bury him.  I decided sometime last winter that I was going to write a book, part childhood memoir, part philosophy of living.  I love writing, will always write, want to write more, write for a living, write, and write, and write some more–it is an important part of my journey here in this life.  But, I have always sworn that I would never write a book.  The commitment– sheesh!  I always felt too lazy to write anything that length.  The poignant creative non-fiction essay was my sweet spot.  But laying in bed one night, it came to me, clear as day, the whole thing.  And even though the work on it has been slow, it is there, and it will happen, and morph and change and one day see the light, even if that light is just the shine of my own two eyes.  I believe that.

But to write about your childhood means to write about your parents, and as I work on this, as I start to bring life to these stories, my father, much as he did for so much of my life, takes up all the space.  And I find myself wondering, why?  Why would I only consider that my father would be standing there, behind me, when the two worlds we share might be mingling?  Why isn’t my mother’s the name on my lips?  Why not her, so sweet, so angelic?  Why am I not begging for a visit from her?

I keep hearing myself tell stories about my life centered around my dad, and I keep finding myself wanting to find a way to tell the story of my mother, too.  I hate that I have to go back and find that story, that it isn’t the one that stuck.  I may have been better off if it had.  But that story is its own mess of misfortune, so it is just as complicated to get a hold of as it is hard loosening the grip of my father’s story from my fingers.  I’m not sure if I can.

They say the dead like orange.

So, after putting away our costumes this year, we picked some calendula blossoms and put them on the table in honor of our dearly departed.  But this year, I didn’t get out the many pictures of my father.   This year, I didn’t reminisce with my children about their wild and wonderful Grandpa Roger.  I didn’t do much, at all, raising of the dead.  Instead, I let the kids–well, mostly my daughter–ask questions and draw portraits and tell the stories they knew and kept it at that.   My daughter, she feels her ties to all her family, here and there, so deeply, and her boundless love felt more pure and even for this year’s celebration.  I was too in the thick of my mind to do things properly.

I had just one thing I needed to do, alone, to ease those thoughts running through the roads of my mind, one thing to quiet down the noise, to move forward this year into the dark.

I went out into the cold, November night and knelt by the fig tree where we spread my mother’s ashes, the tree that just won’t produce any fruit, and I secretly whispered into the chill, thin air, “I’m so sorry, Mom.  I hope you like the flowers.”

summer, i give you, my all and more (an invite for you to give some too)

summer, local food, farming, Hello and hello.

It has been longer than long, it feels, since I have been able to get to this space.  I have been a bit in the weeds, quite literally, but also metaphorically.  Sorting and cleaning the mind while I work outside is almost as good as sorting and cleaning it out at the keyboard.  Much like the sun, which reached its zenith last week, heralding us into summer, our own scales have tipped, dropping us smack dab into the wild side of our year.

Summer.

It is loud.  It is busy.  It is fuller than full, and that is why I love it so.  Me–and all this food growing out here–we’re exploding like crazy from our roots up, up, up towards the sky.  It is hectic, and I may feel like it is altogether too much.  But instead of that, after bursting wide open, I know, I remember, that I will get to fall gently back into the warm blanket of the earth come autumn, that I will get to wrap myself up again come winter with all the hints of the seeds of next year tucked safely in my womb.  I breathe and keep going.

Summer.  It’s so, so good.  Welcome.

And quickly, before I sign off to go back outside with the setting sun to finish washing some of tomorrow’s market veggies (beets! carrots! chard! kale! broccoli! new potatoes! basil! salad mix! lettuce heads! fava beans!) and ready the fruit (gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries!), I want to invite you all, from the local folks and farm members reading to the many new and wonderful far flung readers here in this space too, to take a look at the most important kickstarter campaign of the next 24 hours!

Good friends, great project.  And they need your support to finish this right.  This seemingly humble butcher shop will benefit not just our own local eaters, but you all.  It is a part of the larger, necessary, and oh so important, real food movement.  This involves us all.  And we all can help make this happen, together, bit by bit and place by place.  Thanks for giving it a look!

Their kickstarter campaign: Meat @ Grain Station Marketplace

Picture 1We enthusiastically invite you to join in McMinnville’s growing craft food scene. Our community needs a source for local, pastured meats sold fresh year round. Kyle Chriestenson and Amanda Perron plan to give you just that at MEAT. Our butcher counter will proudly feature pastured animals from some of the areas great small farms and ranches, processed with a passion for quality and flavor. This is the first step in a larger vision, that includes retail, wholesale, deli, and catering. We look forward to growing with the help of our friends and family. Join us in launching this project off to a great start, it will take all of us to make this dream a reality.  Click HERE

wash station wednesday: time travelling, bob dylan, and us, tangled, together

This week marked the start of our summer farmer’s market season.  Wednesdays are now full harvest days for the farmer, who handles most of the actual harvesting.  He is fast and efficient, and can get right out in the field with the rising sun.   For me, instead, harvest day really means wash station day.  After breakfasting, and face washing, and getting every one dressed and settled on some activities or ready to go outside, I spend harvest day cleaning, bundling, and counting vegetables.

And each season, towards the end of the year, I find myself wrapping the whole thing up in my head as a soundtrack.  The wash station comes alive with music throughout the year–loud, getting work done music–the likes of which we don’t really employ in the house too often.  Unless we are all working together cleaning up, or for our often enough after dinner dance party-do the dishes get downs, inside our home, loud music does not go over that well with four children’s voices to be heard and all of the other noises of their living and playing.   The wash station is the last refuge for me, for such.  I relish it.

Yesterday, starting the season and starting the day, I reached way back in time for some classic Bob Dylan~Blood on the Tracks.  It was just right.  And even though there were many other songs in the air throughout the rest of the day as we bagged lettuce and bunched radishes, it was those songs from this brilliant, heart moving album that stayed in my mind.  With the first bit of “early in the morning, the sun was shining” I, too, was back in time.

Hair blowing in the wind, hot summer sun shining on bare arms, a moving car, an unknown road.  Young.

Music is, for some people, as necessary as water, and I am one of those, no doubt.  I see all of my life through the sounds that touched me in the times I was moving through them.  From waking in my early teens on Sunday mornings to the sounds of my father’s loud music heralding in the day–Cowboy Junkies or U2 on the best days, and I would just lay in bed and listen, gazing out my window, so completely sure that anything in the world was possible, or some days, Dwight Yoakam or Johnny Cash or some other semblance of country music that was probably on the better end of that spectrum than not, but which I could not at that time find any way to appreciate, and I would cover my head with the pillow till it ended–from then to today.  Soundtracks.

Thanks to my father, who was questionably qualified to raise children but had pretty great tastes in, and a deep appreciation for, music, I gladly inherited this love.  And I am sure he is the one to first introduce me to Dylan too, but I didn’t came to love these old songs when he did.  It wasn’t until I had left the home, and was free in almost every way, till they meant anything at all to me.

After moving out of the home, during my college years, I spent as much time as I could travelling around the country, trying to see it all and have as many adventures as I could.   And so much the better is music on the move, in the travelling vehicle.  More often than not, that travelling involved, or revolved around, live music as well.  Dancing, laughing, the sounds brought the whole world together, it seemed.

But even then, and definitely now, I knew that this was not the only reason for hopping in a car with dear friends and taking off.  The lure of the open road, of spending months at a time on it, living off of it, was that it allowed for the thickening screen, even then at that age, of societal constraints to fall completely away.  It magnified every true thing.  Karma was instant, your attitude determined everything, an open mind was wholly necessary.  You encountered, every day, things new and out of your control.  From the many and beautiful but different and new landscapes of the land, to the many and beautiful but different and new faces in every new town.   Everything was unique, surprising.  There was always something to learn.

And sometimes the most wonderful parts of it all bubbled to the surface through the cracks in the adventure, the car troubles or the getting lost.  The peeling away of it all and seeing that you could either be ugly under pressure or your most magnificent.

The times in between travels, in the day to day of classes, studies, restaurant jobs, and relationships, my goal was always to remember those things that seemed so clear on the road.  The lessons learned.

The farmer had some wanderlust in him as well, which eventually led him to me, standing, waiting, in the middle of everywhere and nowhere at all, the middle of the country itself (or quite close to it anyway).  And our own love story unfolds in a journey we shared across secret rivers found on the roadside in Kentucky, all night drives in hopes of watching the sun rise on the Atlantic Ocean, mosquito filled tents in Minnesota, and ultimately, many, many concerts along the way.  Him, my own travelling minstrel, my favorite musician of all.  The mingling of all these passions unfolding through a summer, the sounds still the sweetest soundtrack of all.

And now we are farmers.

A farm is, in so many ways, the complete opposite of life on the road.  We weren’t even sure, so many years ago, could we really settle this love of the new, this love of adventuring?

Of course we did, in every possible way.  We were crazy to settle down back then, even in our uncertainty.  We tied ourselves not only to each other, but to four children, a home, a community, and ultimately, a piece of land.  Stewards of each other’s hearts, four small pairs of hands, and fourteen acres (in desperate need of some care), we were bound beyond bound, called to duties of the highest order.  The weekend camping trip has even became nearly impossible.

But, we have never looked back.

As the signature sound of a one time poet-musician filled the air yesterday and I travelled to this other time, I had the smallest, faintest whispering of desire for that feeling.  That feeling.  On the road.  Is there anything like it?

But throughout the day, reflecting and remembering, it came to me that this completely settled life we chose instead, the seeming opposite of wandering, offers us, daily, that same instant reminder of what is important and true.  Being tied to the land and its cycles is perhaps the only other thing for us, folks in need of constantly removing the screens that blur or block the underlying meanings, that can satisfy.  Life on the farm gets us back to where we started from, and everyday we observe the magnificent mystery of living a life on this earth.  Every day, lessons in optimism and perseverance, in what it takes to make it through every twist and turn of this, life, the ultimate adventure.

The constant reminder, the sure knowledge, that good work returns more blessings than not.

It was a very rainy wash station day, this first Wednesday.  And the first market of the season~buckets of rain.  But it was also a very good day, back together with other farmers and market friends, seeing some new faces, all of us together for a wet day of community.

“You do what you must do, and ya do it well.”

To be tied to all of this sounds better than all the songs combined and is a song unto itself.  Down the road of a new season, we travel.

Together.